Archive for January, 2011

The Road to Hollywood Greatness is Paved with… post-it notes

January 26, 2011

I’m writing a screenplay themed “hell is other people” (thanks Jean-Paul Satre, you knew your shit) and having an awesome time doing it. I can’t tell you what it’s about yet because well, fuck me if I know at this stage. But I have that amazing feeling that there’s Something There.

Terrible, terrible things are happening in this story so far. I decided to set it in the 90s.

Got these hardcovers second-hand at my favourite book store - Bookman on Tustin. Other reference material includes Wiki, of course, and well, Jesus Camp - the doccie.

Tomorrow, I write the first 30 pages in rough. Right now, I’m going to hang with a friend. Cause not all other people are hell. In fact, Satre didn’t mean it that way at all. Read Huis Clos if you don’t believe me.

No idea is new, but we can’t stop telling our stories anyway. I, for one, have no control over it.

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Try me, I’m new! What’s next? Chocolate chip cookies?

January 23, 2011

Nothing would surprise me now. I am saying that to tempt fate. I hope you’re tempted, Fate… wouldn’t be the first time I won the the battle with you and found my life standing on its head without warning one morning!

A sign at Paul's Cocktails says TRY ME I'M NEW. Inspirational stuff - and it would also make a great T-Shirt.

SO it’s a new year, and I’m a little behind on my new start. I decided to make 2011 The Year of the New and theme it Wholesome.

I’m not sure why. Maybe the American red-brick mentality is getting to me. I did sit for 20 minutes yesterday at a baseball field watching the boys from the Lutheran Baseball team watering the pitch before their Friday game, feeling a sense of peace wash over me as families arrived with picnic baskets and cameras to support them, and the sun sank, making California magic. American Beauty is terribly seductive.

Or maybe it’s just that being a badass is kinda old hat. I am already the girl who can beat a guy at pool; who will give you the milk without making you buy the cow; who doesn’t believe in God; who believes it’s better to live hard and risk death than to live life in a bubble and who would rather lose your love than lie.

So here’s what’s new this new year in this new country…

1. New food I used to cook, a lot. I’d take a day and just cook. Then for various really sad reasons, I stopped, and only ever cooked one thing: Roast Chicken. I just didn’t want to try anymore. Today I made Babootje. I even allowed myself to take the recipe from a woman’s website.

2. New rules for boys I’ve historically refused to “date”. I didn’t want to seem to be bargaining, like a whore for love instead of money. “If you date me for a while and fall for me then maybe I’ll shag you” seemed just as cheap as asking for $300. I also thought not waiting was a great way to eliminate the losers who look down on you cause you sleep with men as soon as you want to. And then, I was also concerned that if I dated people I’d never get laid, because most men are so annoying I wouldn’t really want to sleep with them once I got to know them. That was my logic. No more! In my new life, I’m going apple pie on love’s ass. In other words: time to start taking it slower. My apologies to all those who missed out.

Another photo of me breaking the law. Better quality than the usual CCTV footage.

3. New places New York, and maybe New Orleans. But also new places around where I live. I’ve found the hike in Irvine, and the run along the creek here in Orange and I’m on the lookout for more open spaces to explore.

4.  New food …or just new ways of consuming it. I may have mentioned this before, but it’s important. I’m cutting out eating out – to save money and be healthier and avoid chowing all these tortured animals that keep the fast food market so cheap – so I need to cook at home. Today babootje, tomorrow, possibly, vegetarian babootje. I will also no longer allow myself to stock crackers, as that leads to simply eating cheese for every meal.

5.  New skills And this could include reviving old ones. I got my mom to bring my flute with her when she visited. So starting to play that again tomorrow. And I bought an HD DSLR, and plan to spend the week before school working my way through the manual and making a movie to prove I did. Well, as well as writing the first act of a feature and starting out some new projects with directors/cines I’m interested in working with.

I’m feeling excited about the future. And why not? It’s bright, and so am I, dammit.

San Francisco: City of A Thousand Dry Cleaners

January 17, 2011

It’s hard to go to a new place and not compare it to places you’ve been before. The more you travel, the more you start to see the trends. That doesn’t mean every city doesn’t feel very different to the one before or the one after. Cities are like lovers: it doesn’t matter how many you’ve been to. A first time is a first time, every time. And when it begins to feel too much like home, it’s probably time to leave before you get kicked out.

The market for laundries is er… flooded. So you get natural specialisation: Dry Cleaning is the biggest one. Then there’s organic dry cleaning. And finally, there’s this place with the doggie in the window.

San Francisco lives up to its reputation. I was there for about five minutes when I overheard my first classic conversation between two drunk guys on the pavement outside a bar.

CURLYHAIRED GUY: You just tell him “Imps and Elves party, my place, now!”
SLICKER DUDE: No no, he already likes me, it’s not that… it’s just…

A photogenic city, as pretty as the pictures.

I’ve heard more people discussing that their therapist said, yoga, and wine in the last 48 hours than I have the entire five months I lived in Orange. I don’t mean to make it sound pretentious. Some people might say it is. I think it’s cultured. And hilarious. Like yogurt spiked with LSD.

 

Speaking of LSD...

The picture you have to take. Golden Gate Bridge is as beautiful as you imagine, and more. San Francisco is probably the only city that really rivals Cape Town for pure beauty.

Got me thinking about the cities I’ve loved most in my life. You know those places – the ones where you imagine an entire lifetime on the first night, or where a whole new future seems possible.

While sitting in an asian bar-restaurant eating the most amazing prawn dumplings with dried shaved garlic and shopped spring onions in a warm vinegar sauce, I thought it over. I decided that a great city needs to have certain elements to be great. Not all of these, but most…

A harbour – or large river: Or something like that. Because great cities all have a history of having lots of immigrants, who enrich the culture. I am a sea girl, in any case, so gulls, the sound of fog horns, fog and the smell of salt all make me very happy. Being landlocked makes me very sad. Without the Sea, Cape Town would just be a stuck up little town with a big rock in the middle (think Paarl+hippies). With the sea (and the music and the food) it’s awesome.

Great food: If not an amazing cuisine, like Florence, then variety, like any great American city, or like Paris. Prague will never really be a great city because the food sucks. The Russians are apparently responsible for ruining it. Same goes for Rome (unless you’re loaded). Antananarivo (Madagascar) scores on may levels, with food being one of the major ones. You can eat like a king there (French, Malagasy, Chinese, Indian… you name it) for three dollars. Think free range foie gras steaks. And the most amazing pastries.

Music: Antananarivo may be polluted and its clubs sex markets for asshole tourists, Maputo’s police will pull you over for a bribe on the way home, and Paris is expensive. But you’ll find stuff that’ll blow your mind when it comes to live music. Barcelona’s clubs are the best. The dance floors are air-conditioned – although not air-conditioned enough to stop every guy over the age of 15 trying to get it on at random. Yes, that cliche, it’s true. Same goes for Cape Town. I’m excusing Florence cause makes up for the lack of decent live music with incredible food and art.

Walkability: Every now and then, when they drop the butter-vs-margarine debate for five minutes to take a leak, the lifestyle news feeds put out an article about why French women are so thin, even though they eat butter and bread all the time and drink red wine. They never tell you why, really, so I will: European women walk a lot. That’s why they make the best high heels in Spain and Italy. I love cities where you can walk everywhere. And when you can’t? There should be options. Like the Paris Metro, or free options like the Cable Cars in San Francisco and the free zone buses in Seattle. London’s underground doesn’t count because sharing it with most of the people who ride it makes it the most depressing experience on earth. Not sure why, but the same technology in the hands of the French is fun. It think that’s because it’s acceptable to make eye contact with strangers in Paris, but not in London.

Which makes Cape Town, Durban, Paris, Florence, Antananarivo, Maputo, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, and Barcelona the best places I’ve been.

Still haven’t touched down on a few continents, and I got to get to New York and New Orleans before the clubs close. And Baltimore. And Boston. Shit and Chicago. Actually I’d visit any US city… so far there isn’t one I’d I’d call a shithole, or where I’ve felt unwelcome.

And now – after breakfast in a diner where the waitress called me Honey – it’s time to drive home to Orange on Martin Luther King day. I’m always longing to leave The County, but after two nights of listening to the ceiling creak as the couple upstairs get it on, coming home feels comfortable, safe. I look forward to my own shower, and my own bed, and my own coffee machine. It’s my own little town and my stuff is there, if you know what I mean.

 

Beyond you’re with us or against us – San Francisco

January 17, 2011

I don’t mean to sound like that annoying lady from Eat Pray Love, but travel is the ultimate therapy. Which makes travel to a place where you feel instantly at home a cure. I feel free here. I am beginning to see why people in Northern California think they’re better. Then again, I fall in love with every city I visit – and it’s even worse in the USA, where every city seems to be amazing in its own way. Next thing you know I’ll be going on about how amazing the Midwest is, although a guy I spoke to for a few hours (who now works for George Lucas in San Fran, how’s THAT for a dream come true) says I’d get into trouble in a matter of minutes out there.  Apparently if you don’t like American football there, they throw you in a pond. If you float, you’re a witch, and they take you out and kill you. If you drown, you might not be a witch, so your parents can proudly bury you in the church yard.

Okay, I made all that up. But I’m still scared to go.

Got me that pony I always wanted... Yes, I buy American. It's part of my communist disguise.

Been bumping heads with patriots lately. There’s nothing wrong with loving your country. But come on already and relax. There’s no need to make it a “you’re with us or you’re against us” game. Just because I don’t love everything about it all the time doesn’t mean you need to gag me with a flag or make me listen to “America the Beautiful” sung in that weird hot potato accent you use for anthems and shit.

Nothing like a bit of political protest to make me feel at home in this big, big sky. Here's what it's all about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYToGI1NxpU

Now that that’s out of the way, here are some pictures of American Beauty as I see it.

About last night... I'd love to know the story behind how these sunglasses wound up there.

The park on top of the world.

I want to play I want to play.

Getting out of Dodge: San Francisco

January 16, 2011

Philosophy, so-cal style.

One friend says it’s the lunar something. Another friend says it’s hormones. Another friend doesn’t want to be friends. And me? Well who knows what I want – and who (more importantly) even cares. In any case, there’s a weird vibe on the semi-deserted campus right now – something to do with something about the way some unknown force affects men of a certain age – and I just had to get out before the emotional undertow sucked me into its murky, self-destructive depths forever.

Orange may look like a nice enough place. But you’d be surprised what a combination of bad judgment and cheap booze can achieve.

And the alternatives to the undertow are just… getting boring. I didn’t come all the way to the amazing USA to sit in my one-bedroomed apartment with the blinds closed, surfing the web, watching stuff on Netflix, talking to people on farkbook chat. I can write anywhere, right?

So I filled her up and put her in drive, turned Gomez up full blast and typed “Golden Gate Bridge” into my GPS: Come on / Come on over / When we collide, we’ll see what gets left over. You said it Ben, you said it.

A good long distance drive is like making your own movie on an endless dolly. Beats any ride at Disneyland. You need supply is a soundtrack, snacks and caffeine. And USA’s roads are tailor-made for my romance with the all-American obsession with burning gasoline. Miles and miles of unexplored terrain. Generally good drivers. Cheap gas. And the opportunity to eat the kind of junk food that only tastes good when you’re going 70mph – chili cheetos and starbucks energy-coffee combo. Brown mountains and misty farmlands peeling back in full 3D while the music tears a wisdom-sized hole in your eardrum. I’d do well to keep these words in mind: When all’s said and done / The things that were given were the things that you won.

I stopped near Bakersfield for a curry at The Taste of India – mostly because of their massive billboards, advertising for about 5 miles before and dominating the little stop that consists of three motels with Jacuzzi suits, a McDonalds etc. etc., a truck mechanic and a gas station. They specialise in Vegan food.

See the circle on the map? That's where I was.

It may not be the best curry I’ve ever eaten. In fact, it isn’t really curry, if curries are spicy by definition. But it’s definitely the most expensive curry I’ve ever had… not counting the $20 in gas it took to get here in my ‘stang. God I love that car. Not because it’s practical. It’s not. It’s rear wheel drive and I’m rear-ending the planet every time I put foot. It just SCREAMS “I couldn’t afford a corvette”. My suitcase doesn’t fit in the boot.

But I feel like a racing driver every time I accelerate.

A no-horse town. The perfect place for an air-field, a prison, a military base, chicken farm, or a bicycle race - flat for miles and miles.

Four hours remain, according to Maggie Magellan; my constant companion, my first American friend. To make fun of myself, I searched Google for motels in San Fran with lunar-themed names. So the Luna Inn – yes really. That’s where I’m headed.

Cause sometimes surrendering to my inner crazy-person beats actually beats making another bad decision.

Hooters! For parents who really believe “breast is best”

January 6, 2011

I want to the Hooters website. I needed to set a scene I was writing there, okay. And also I’m always fascinated by the businesses who set up near places where men are believed to lurk at their most vulnerable or unfettered moments – like outside churches sports stadiums, and in airports. Here in the USA, places like this are generally designed to comfort and pamper the male, and are oddly food-focussed.

Nom nom nom.

I’ve never known South African strip clubs to punt their hamburgers. Why bother – that’s not what people go there for. But here in the USA the men seem willing to settle for less actual nudity, provided they can load up on calories while they skinny women in tight clothing serve them food in language loaded with sexual innuendo: “That’s the biggest burger I’ve ever seen! It’s huge!” says the woman in the frontpage flash video. “Much, much more than a mouthful.”. I guess the more deep-fried gunk guys eat, the more likely it is they’ll need to pay chicks to talk to them like that.

If I need to explain anything I’ve said so far, you’re probably too young to be reading this blog. But oddly… Hooters doesn’t seem to think so. In their merchandise section, I found THIS.

Keep your eye on the future, kid. And parents, get your baby-girl a hooters shirt now. By the time they're 18, if you keep feeding them beef full of hormones, they'll have grown into it and with any luck? Hey, they can "put themselves through college", if you know what I mean.

America. Just when you think you’re used to it, it whuppasses you with its weirdness all over again. Someone said to me last night – get this – “You shouldn’t make fun of American Football. It upsets people.”

American men may be a bunch of sports-mad perverts. But they’re a bunch of sensitive sports-mad perverts.

Once it was a drunken piano bar; now it’s not even drunk in.

January 3, 2011

Train stations are so romantic, when they’re done right. They’re yesterday’s airports – grand, glorious waiting rooms made into malls, full of stories starting and ending and somewhere in between, and memories of all the times we were all there before. Hope, sadness, adventure… whatever it is, nobody travels for no reason. Most people seem to live most of their lives for no reason other than survival, really, moving from morning piss to after-dinner drink to passing out, like mere organisms.

The sign says to report it if you spot anything unusual - like, say... a Tom Cruise Lookalike with bad facial hair and foreign teeth? These men are dangerous. Our train journey back was delayed five hours because some asshole called someone - uniformed men then stopped and searched the train for illegal immigrants.

I spotted nothing that didn't seem unusual. Take this guy, who's carrying an orchid. Where is he going? Is it for him or his lover - and how long will it live?

Train stations promise more than that.

My two favourite station stops on Amtrack’s route between LA and Seattle were Los Angeles Union train station – which is beautifully maintained and restored and smells of fresh coffee, and the station at Portland, Oregon, which seems full of stories.

Just randomly walking around in a Christmas hat... in LA station, on Christmas Eve 2010.

LA station is a real crossroads. Add the fact that it was Christmas Eve and the beginning of my mother and my trip to Seattle… and that I expected LA station to be an awful, dirty, low-ceilinged wasteland. This was an amazing surprise. So amazing I bought souvenir tequila-shot glasses.

You can say a lot of bad things about sleeping in a train station. One of them is not that it's forgettable.

A day or so later, we stopped for 40 minutes in Portland, Oregon.

These trains made me happy.

Oregon is supposedly the only state with its own flag.* Correction to this provided by Shannon in the comments. My mom went and got this info from the baggage handler... maybe he meant it was the only state that always flew the flag this way?

Another surprise – a feeling that some of the things the place was made for were gone now.

Once, this was a piano bar. Then it was just a bar. When we were there it was closed.

This piano bar made me really sad. I want it to be open. I want to dress up and go there – drink a large, illegal martini, while flirting with a gangster in a black hat. I love little details like this. Like the church bells in South Africa’s small towns that were once rung by real people, now ringing out as scheduled recordings. I’d love to write a movie about the last person who rang one of those bells, and how it felt when they lost their job.

But a station store with a sense of humour at least. If you want a fridge magnet that mocks the 50s, this is the place to get it.

Well, reading them is free.

I love "I love bacon" the most. That and the No Drama sign. Every home should have one.

Apparently human beings can't cope with more than 7 choices.

... tick. Tock. I believe in ghosts.

2010 in review

January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,600 times in 2010. That’s about 16 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 104 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 336 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 153mb. That’s about 6 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was October 12th with 165 views. The most popular post that day was 36 hours in LA, my way.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, facebook.com, news24.com, blogger.com, and hootsuite.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for zibi can, jean barker, ikea instructions, ikea guide, and jean barker sign language.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

36 hours in LA, my way October 2010
4 comments

2

Braai me a liver… my beef with barbecue. September 2010
5 comments

3

About April 2010
5 comments

4

The pros and cons of competitive advertising. September 2010
2 comments

5

I have a dream… you don’t wanna know. October 2010
8 comments

The USA Checklist: Ice hockey on New Year’s Eve

January 1, 2011

I’ve always wanted to go to a real ice hockey game, ever since I saw Youngblood – one of those movies from the 80s that would never be quite the same now. The 80s was a time when Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reaves stripping Rob Lowe naked and shaving him from head to toe wasn’t at all gay. At the same time, actually being gay was not at all awesome, like it is now. Specially in South Africa, where it was illegal – almost as illegal as being black.

Even without all the shaving, Ice hockey is an awesome sport. It’s definitely my favourite American sport so far. I like the fast, violent ones, you see. So American Football is out – too slow, with all the stopping. And if you’ve been to a rugby game (violent and dangerous) it’s just lame with all its padding and rules; and if you’ve been to a real football game then it’s just kinda weird that they call it football at all. Basketball is okay – I like that. But Rob Lowe never played it. And then there’s baseball, which is boring to watch on TV but may replace cricket for me if I hang around long enough. Golf? What? Fuck golf. Seriously.

So many signs I couldn't take a photograph of anything so instead I focussed on this massive pig-shaped blimp that was dropping frozen yogurt vouchers from the air. Everything - and everything - is sponsored by someone. Even the weird-ass vibratoed singing of the national anthem (which for some reason made my Mom cry) came with a dedication to "America's military forces all over the world."

And yes, ice hockey, for me, like most sports, is largely about the kind of sex appeal that a woman who’s been given every opportunity to develop sophisticated tastes should know better than to feel appealed to by. I feel the same way about the players as straight guys probably feel about the chicks who sweep the ice in tiny little skirts in the breaks. Don’t talk. Just do your moves. I don’t think any amount of feminism, religious indoctrination or censorship will fix any of us when it comes to that stuff.

The ducks goalie can't see me from down there on the cold, cold ice, but nevertheless, I feel we have a "connection".

So ya the Mighty Ducks won. It seemed kinda obvious that they would. They were bigger and their uniforms were scarier than those worn by the Philly Fliers. The fans were very rude about it. They boo at the opposing teams – something that would be considered very rude at a soccer match, and grounds for social expulsion at a test cricket match in South Africa. They don’t applaud opposing teams’ goals. And then sometimes the players get into fights on the ice. The woman sitting next to my mom and I said: “Yeah, it’s encouraged.”

Ducks' goalkeeper Jonas Hiller. Is there anyone whose type he "isn't". I mean, really.

Any way, it was awesome. Even the hot dogs and the lame beer was awesome. Which is good, because it looks like the remainder of my new years is going to be seriously awful – the grown-up equivalent of not being invited to the only party in middle school. My mom’s going to sleep now (10pm) and since most of the people I usually hang out with are scattered all over the USA, I have no plans. Except maybe watching many consecutive episodes of Arrested Development. Actually that’s starting to sound like a really attractive option. Maybe when my SA friends wake up, clutching their heads, their eyes the colour of Natalie Portman’s at the end of Black Swan, I’ll score a little conversation, drink a little of the stale white wine in the fridge. Or just mock their pain.

I guess that’s something to look forward to. And I have so much to be grateful for. Like not being an ice hockey fan from Philadelphia tonight. Or not being a Hooters Girl, who tonight will be forced to serve five free chicken wings to all the drunk guys who show their Duck’s tickets. Like all the stuff I achieved this year – the impossible in a way. But I can’t help it. I got the oh poor me’s real bad right now.  There’s something horribly sad about the sound of fireworks starting to go off at someone else’s party on New Year’s Eve. People are having fun out there. In here, I’m sulking up a storm.